LRO Peers into Permanent Shadows
The Moon's permanently shadowed regions, or PSRs, are places on the Moon that haven't seen the Sun in millions, or even billions, of years. The Earth's tilted axis allows sunlight to fall everywhere on its surface, even at the poles, for at least part of the year. But the Moon's tilt relative to the Sun is only 1.6°, not enough to get sunlight into some deep craters near the lunar north and south poles. PSRs are therefore some of the coldest, darkest places in the solar system.
Because of that, PSRs are expected to be excellent traps for volatiles, chemicals that would normally vaporize and escape into space, and this includes water. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) includes several instruments designed to peer into the PSR darkness and measure temperature, reflectivity, and neutron absorption, all of which are clues to what chemicals might be hiding there. This animation shows where the PSRs are and in what ways LRO can see inside them.
Beginning with a full-frame Moon, the camera flies to the lunar south pole and shows areas of permanent shadow. Realistic shadows evolve through several months.
The same push-in to the south pole as the previous, without the permanent shadow overlay.
Demonstration of the differing obliquity (tilt) of the Earth and Moon. Zooms quickly on the Moon as it emerges from behind the Earth.
A close flyover of south pole terrain. Elevation contours light up, and as we arrive at Shackleton crater, elevation color coding lights up inside it and in other permanently shadowed regions. Finally, the view pans up into the sky, revealing a rich starfield.
Three different datasets are overlaid on the south pole. For each, the full dataset fades to a version masked by the permanent shadow map. The datasets are from LAMP (lyman alpha albedo), Diviner (daytime temperature), and LEND (hydrogen).
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
MissionsThis visualization is related to the following missions:
Datasets used in this visualization
Clementine 750-nm BasemapID: 545Mosaic Collected with UVVIS Camera
LROID: 213Collected with Diviner
LRO DEM (Digital Elevation Map)ID: 653Collected with LOLA
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.